Venezuelan president says officials have been talking to Washington 'for months'
'We've had secret meetings in secret places with secret people that nobody knows:' Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday he had authorized contact with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump "for months," in an effort to repair relations with Washington.
In January, Maduro broke diplomatic relations with the United States. Washington imposed sanctions on high-level officials and Venezuelan state entities to increase pressure on Maduro and remove him as leader of the OPEC nation.
Officials from the two countries had not previously confirmed contact until earlier Tuesday, when Trump told journalists at the White House his administration had been in talks "at a very high level" with various representatives from Venezuela but declined to give details.
In a nationally broadcast appearance hours after Trump spoke, Maduro said that talks had long been underway between high officials in his government and the U.S. administration.
"We've had secret meetings in secret places with secret people that nobody knows," Maduro said, adding that all talks had been carried out under his "direct" authorization. "Sure there's been contact and we'll continue having contact."
The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the U.S. has made secret contact with socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello as close allies of Maduro's inner circle seek guarantees they won't face prosecution for alleged abuses and crimes if they cede to growing demands to remove him.
Maduro said he could not reveal details about which officials had been in contact with the Trump administration or what they had discussed, but that the goal of the discussions was to "normalize and resolve this conflict" between the two countries.
The U.S. considers opposition leader Juan Guaido to be the legitimate president of the country.
Maduro and a delegation representing Guaido have been meeting in Barbados as part of talks to resolve a political stalemate in nation that is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse.
This week opposition politicians are travelling to Washington to speak to U.S. officials, four sources told Reuters.
With files from The Associated Press